The first wave of diplomats left Kiev in mid-February, well before shells began to hit in and around the historic city. The next wave of embassies packed up and left Ukraine’s capital a few weeks later when the war started in earnest, shifting their operations westward and away from the fighting.

Despite everything, the Vatican’s diplomatic mission remained in place.

In recent weeks, with Russian troops withdrawing widely from the region, dozens of embassies in the city have reopened or plans to return announced. The United States said this week it would reopen its embassy.

Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Holy See’s ambassador to Ukraine, said he would stay as long as a city was standing. Without the consular workload of a typical embassy or the political or economic interests of a secular state, considerations were different for the nunciature, as the Vatican’s diplomatic mission is known.

“Bishops and priests, who stay with the people. I stick with the people because it’s part of my identity,” he said in a telephone interview.

For weeks, Archbishop Kulbokas and his five-man staff—less than the embassy’s usual occupancy of 11—worked, ate, bathed, and slept in a few rooms on the ground floor of the nunciature, a five-story yellow-walled, tree-lined building. lined Shevchenkivskyi district in Kiev. His days are filled with handling calls to coordinate humanitarian aid, requests for aid from the country and aid offers from Catholic organizations abroad, he said.

On Thursday evening, he and his staff heard the now-familiar whirring of incoming missiles and the ensuing detonation about a kilometer away. In any case, it was the third time explosions have come within earshot of the embassy.

Faced with the overwhelming need for help, the archbishop said he hasn’t had time to think too much about the risks of staying. He spent the early weeks of the war helping to evacuate children and staff from orphanages near the front lines in the east. In the second half of March, he unsuccessfully tried to get help in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Russian soldiers refused to allow the church entry into the city and declined his requests to provide humanitarian aid with an Orthodox bishop, he said. Nearly half of the population in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodox; Roman Catholics make up a small proportion of the country’s believers.

Archbishop Kulbokas, a Lithuanian, was only sent to Kiev last fall after working on relations between Ukraine and Russia at the Vatican Secretariat of State. He also served in the Embassy of the Holy See in Russia, where he translated in meetings between Pope Francis and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

In mid-April, he left Kiev to accompany Cardinal Konrad Krajewski on visits to nearby suburban towns, including Bucha and Borodianka, where mass graves were excavated after the withdrawal of Russian troops. Seeing the written names of the cities brings tears to his eyes, said the Archbishop.

“In any religion, human life is the priority,” he said. “If we really believe in God, our priority would be to help each other.”

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